Today’s Graduate Needs to be Fleet; There is No Time for Waiting Around

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If I were asked to give a commencement talk to a group of high school graduates this year, here is what I would have told them:
Today’s graduating seniors face a much different world than the one faced by their parents and grandparents.

These graduates face a time when even a college education might not be enough. They face a lifetime of education. A paradigm has occurred here. We are living during a time when the world is changing so fast, successful workers will need constant retraining and continuing education in order to be successful.

It’s been said today’s graduate may have as many as seven different careers before his or her working days are over. This makes for a terrific strain on his or her educational selection process.

If you end up being a computer whiz, what good did all that chemistry do for you? If you end up making your fortune in networking or marketing, why even go to college in the first place?

These are difficult questions.

These grads’ parents and grandparents were looking for companies that would employ them forever when they graduated from high school, vocational training or college. Such companies are hard to find today.

The world of business is a strange place compared to the recent past. For example:

• Millions of working people have made and lost millions of dollars because of the rise and the fall of the stock market. Crazy financial disasters like the 2001 Internet bubble, the 2008 housing crisis and the energy bust of today can make life very difficult.

• Products like cell phones and laptop computers and systems like the Internet and programs like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have forever changed the way business is being done. New companies like Uber and AirBnb are examples of smart people taking on the challenges of modern society and figuring out a way to use technology to create jobs and make money.

• And we predict some high school grads could lead very successful lives without finishing college. By concentrating on service industries like health care or delivery services and such crafts as contracting, they could be very successful without piling up mountains of college debt.

• And labor unions will continue to decline. One of the reasons they have fallen on hard times is generally they are slow to act.

• We hate it that so many grads will have to leave Wyoming to find the ends of their rainbows. Our advice to young people has always been that, if they insist on leaving, maybe they should get out there and see the world – when they find out more about life – then, by all means, come on back.

Here are some specific ideas we’d pass along to grads:

• The best thing today’s high school graduate can do is keep his or her mind open. Try hard to keep your values but also keep your mind open to new ideas.

• Find mentors. Locate those experienced people who are successful and find out from them how they did it. Make a friend out of this mentor and keep it touch with him or her.

• Most parents hate to hear this advice – but you might consider dropping out of college for a semester or a year, if you can afford it or do not need to stay in college to preserve your Hathaway Scholarship. Perhaps take a “gap” year. Wander around. Preferably, go overseas. Get a feel for the world. That will be every bit as educational to your future as sitting in a classroom.

• Check into fast-growing industries like tourism, anything to do with the Internet and computers, the health care industry, leisure industries and service industries.

• Be fast on your feet. The speed of business today is very rapid. Often, the person there first gets the good job. Make contacts and be ready to move when the opportunity presents itself.

With all the above said, we think today’s grads are living in a time of great opportunity. We wish them well.

I would wrap up such a talk with a quote from Winston Churchill who addressed the English people in 1941 after enduring the initial the bombing of Great Britain: “I can’t tell you this is the beginning. Nor that this is the end. But I can assure you that you have completed the end of the beginning. “

And so it is with our 2016 graduates.

Congratulations and sincere best wishes to the grads and their families.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books. His newest is “Wyoming at 125,” which is now on sale at fine bookstores. His books are available at www.wyomingwonders.com.